Relations between Switzerland and Georgia are excellent and characterised by exchanges in numerous fields. Switzerland's support in Georgia focuses mainly on technical cooperation and humanitarian aid. Switzerland is also involved in helping resolve the conflicts in the South Caucasus region.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Switzerland and Georgia maintain strong, successful relations. Switzerland has been active in development cooperation in Georgia since 1991. As part of its protecting power mandates it has represented the diplomatic interests of Georgia in Moscow and those of Russia in Tbilisi since March 2009.
Switzerland and Georgia are developing their economic relations. Switzerland imports mainly primary products and exports pharmaceuticals, machines and watches. A free-trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Georgia was concluded in 2016.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists from Georgia can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships from the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
Cooperation agreements have been signed between Swiss and Georgian universities. Since 2013, Switzerland has provided support in a number of fields including vocational skills development in the agricultural sector and in public administration.
Peace promotion and human security
Peacebuilding is at the core of Switzerland's activities in the South Caucasus.
On 8 August 2008, armed conflict broke out between Georgia and Russia over the separatist Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The two countries subsequently broke off diplomatic relations. At the request of both states, on 5 March 2009 Switzerland assumed the role of representing Georgia’s diplomatic interests in Moscow and those of the Russian Federation in Tbilisi.
As a result of Swiss mediation efforts, on 9 November 2011 Russia and Georgia signed an agreement on customs administration. Switzerland is involved in the implementation of the agreement as a neutral third party, which made it possible to settle differences between Georgia and Russia on Russia's accession to the WTO.
Switzerland is intensifying its efforts within the framework of its 2017–2020 South Caucasus Cooperation Strategy to find peaceful solutions to the various conflicts in the region.
Following its 2014 chairmanship of the OSCE, Switzerland is pursuing its involvement in the region with the appointment of Ambassador Günther Bächler as special representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for the South Caucasus under the German (2016) and Austrian (2017) chairmanships. Mr Bächler represents the OSCE at the Geneva International Discussions and is working to encourage dialogue and closer relations between the countries of the region.
In its 2017–2020 cooperation strategy, the SDC aims to increase and diversify sources of income among disadvantaged population groups in rural regions. It seeks to involve smallholder farmers in agricultural value chains and promote SMEs in the farming sector. Important elements are access to loans and the establishment of a vocational skills development system for agriculture. The SDC also encourages more regional cooperation in the area of economic development and works to improve local governance and public services. In addition, it is involved in disaster risk management with a focus on the sustainable development of rural and mountainous regions. Finally, the SDC supports exchanges between artists in the region to encourage debate on the future and development of the South Caucasus.
There is a lively cultural exchange between Switzerland and Georgia even in the absence of a bilateral cultural exchange agreement. Contacts and initiatives on a private basis are especially rich in literature, music, film and the fine arts. The Swiss embassy in Tbilisi actively supports the cultural scene in Georgia, organising events during the French and Italian language weeks and in the month dedicated to the German language.
Swiss nationals in Georgia
In 2016, there were 56 Swiss citizens living in Georgia.
History of bilateral relations
In the 19th century, many Swiss nationals lived in Georgia. Some were active in the raw materials sector (oil, manganese) while others worked in cheese-making, thus helping to develop the local dairy industry. Switzerland maintained a consulate in Tbilisi from 1883 to 1992.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Switzerland recognised Georgia as an independent state on 23 December 1991. Swiss Humanitarian Aid was active in Georgia during and after the conflicts that shook Abkhazia and South Ossetia from 1991 to 1994 and in 2008. Since 1996, there has been a SDC cooperation office in Tbilisi.
In 1997, the Permanent Mission of Georgia to the international organisations in Geneva also became Georgia's embassy to Switzerland. The opening of the Swiss embassy in Tbilisi in June 2001 has helped strengthen relations between the two countries.
In late 2008, the EU mandated the Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini to head the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia (IFFMCG). The mission investigated the causes of the conflict and presented its report on 30 September 2009.
Switzerland has played an active role in the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), whose mandate expired at the end of summer 2009.